Sixtieth anniversary of the Battle of Cape St. George at USS Cape St. George, Norfolk, 24 November 2003.
Little Beavers Joint Activity History

When we were all young men, forty years ago, we were just starting to get experience and we didn’t have many thoughts of the past. We fought the war the best we could and we appreciated our shipmates—but we never realized that the friends we made then would not always be around.

Now that we have put many experiences under our belt, we may well feel that the most exciting, the most important things we have ever done were those we did during the war. We wonder what happened to Joe, and where did crotchety Jim end up, and did that young noisy kid ever calm down.

We think more and more of those days at sea and the people we knew so well then. We’d like to see them again. We would like to tell sea stories of the night battles, and maybe hear some too. We know now that the friends we made in our old ship were some of the best friends we ever had. We miss them.

And that is why so many of us would like to have reunions with our old shipmates.
Sincerely yours,
Arleigh Burke

Now Hear This, 1 November 1982

November 1980 — Sam Pompei, USS Converse, called Admiral Burke, seeking information regarding how to begin a reunion for Converse shipmates.

July 1981 — The information and encouragement Admiral Burke gave Sam led to a highly successful Converse reunion at Clifton, New Jersey. Admiral Burke addressed the 250-plus attendees via telephone from his bed at the US Naval Hospital, Bethesda, Maryland, where he was recovering from a hip replacement.

August 1981 — Sam Pompei, Red Lail, Frank Martin, Bud Harvison, Leo Koros, Mrs. Dewitt Hamberger, Mrs. Lail and Mrs, Pompei visited the Burkes at their home in Bethesda.

July 1982 — Joe Smith, USS Claxton, Ed Miller, USS Spence, and Bob Perfetti, USS Charles Ausburne, joined a small Converse reunion at Clifton, New Jersey. They learned that Ausburne and Dyson had held small reunions and that Claxton had a history of gatherings since 1949. What could be more logical than a joint get-together of the Little Beaver Squadron? Red Lail immediately offered to host such a reunion in Washington, so Admiral Burke could attend. The initial plan was to aim for the fall of 1984.

August 1982 — Admiral Burke strongly endorsed the idea of a joint reunion and provided Red Lail with the addresses of several Little Beaver senior officers. He suggested that if we could get at least 150 to 175 members to come, it would be a big success. Lail concluded 1984 was too long to wait and moved the plan on the fall of 1983, at a time to coincide with the Little Beavers’ visit to Washington in 1945.

Red Lail, 2003.

One Man’s Dream Made It All Happen

The men of Destroyer Squadron 23 owe a debt of deep gratitude to Red Lail and his wife, Mary Lou, for their untiring efforts in making this reunion happen.

Red, a torpedoman aboard the USS Converse, DD509, during World War II had a dream: bringing all the men of our Squadron together and to honor our great commander, Admiral Arleigh A. Burke. It was a dream that perhaps every member of the “Little Beavers” had experienced at some point in their lives.

But Red made it all happen. Not only for himself, but for all of us. We can never repay him for bringing us all together again and giving us so much joy.

Sam Pompei
President of USS Converse DD509 Alumni Association

Now Hear This, 1 November 1982

Late summer 1982 — The first mailing of Sam Pompei’s initial joint reunion bulletin went to barely 550 known Little Beavers. Of these, over 300 were Converse men, about 50 each from Ausburne and Dyson, and the others Claxton. From this meager start, over 1500 squadronmates were located by October 1983, including over 150 Aulick shipmates who had been meeting for many years. At least 100 were located from each ship except Spence, which had gone down in the typhoon of December 1944 with only 24 survivors.

7 December 1982 — The Lails joined Admiral and Mrs. Burke and many other dignitaries at the dedication of the remodeled Naval Museum at Washington Navy Yard. The admiral suggested that it might be appropriate to hold part of our reunion there, near where the squadron was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation in 1945.

27–30 October 1983 — Over 1000 people gathered for a glorious first reunion of DesRon 23. It was the first meeting of many old friends in nearly 40 years! There was an emotional memorial service at Washington Navy Yard facing the piers where the squadron moored in 1945, followed by a reception at the nearby Naval Museum, as had been suggested by Admiral Burke. A Navy Honor Guard and the Sea Chanters made the event even more impressive.

Most emotional was the Saturday night banquet at the Crystal City Hyatt Regency, where the double-deck dais was loaded with Little Beaver commanding officers, their wives and several widows. Admiral Burke was joined by Associate Supreme Court Justice Byron “Whizzer” White (Intelligence Officer, ComDesRon 23), the then-commander, DesRon 23 and his predecessor, and representatives of the Chief of Naval Operations and other top Navy leaders.

December 1983 — The Lails attended the NAS Norfolk retirement of Captain Marvin Snyder, CHC USN, who had led the memorial service at the October reunion. Red Lail presented him with a letter of congratulations from Admiral Burke, recognizing the Chaplain Snyder as the last known Little Beaver to leave active duty. Marvin Snyder began his Navy career as an ensign on Dyson in 1945.

Summer 1984 — ComDesRon 23 Capt. W.R. Kersting conducted a memorial service at sea aboard the squadron in the vicinity of the tragic loss of Spence in 1944. Captain Kersting had attended the 1983 reunion as a guest of Commander (later Captain) Henry J. Armstrong, Little Beaver captain of Spence.

April 1985 — Reunion Coordinator Red Lail initiated a widespread letter-writing effort in support of naming USS Arleigh Burke-class destroyers for ships and people of WWII’s Little Beavers. We like to think this campaign influenced the naming of USS Cape St. George, CG 71, and USS Stout, DDG 55. We are confident more will follow.

July 1986 — The reunion coordinator and Thatcher shipmate Grover Hinds accompanied Admiral and Mrs. Burke to Bath, Maine, for a symbolic keel-laying of DDG 51.

October 1987 — The reunion coordinator urged all Little Beaver units to be represented at the dedication of the US Navy Memorial on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington. Members of all but two of the ships were on deck waving banners with their ship’s name.

September 1989 — Some 400 Little Beavers were honored guests at the launching of USS Arleigh Burke, DDG 51, at Bath Iron Works. We enjoyed a special reserve area just off the port bow, opposite the over 100 active and retired admirals. Little Beavers on the launch platform with the Burkes included Justice White, Reunion Coordinator Lail, and Charles Ausburne reunion leaders Ed David and Cecil Cobb. One of the Bath Iron Works officials commented, “I’ve seen a lot of launchings in my 20 years here but never one like this!”

The evening Little Beaver banquet, sponsored by the Ausburne in honor of Admiral Burke, was attended by Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Carlisle A.H. Trost, Assistant CNO Vice Admiral John Nyquist, the Prospective Commanding Officer of DDG 51, Commander John Morgan, and over 100 members of the crew and their wives. Their white uniforms brought back many memories.

Early 1991 — Preparations were made for again honoring the Little Beavers at the commissioning of the Arleigh Burke. The ship was provided with names and addresses of over 1800 Little Beavers, all of whom were invited to attend this historic event.

4 July 1991 — Approximately 400 Little Beavers were honored at the commissioning of the Arleigh Burke at Town Park in downtown Norfolk, Virginia. Honored guests and speakers at the event were Admiral and Mrs. Burke and the Secretary of Defense.

10 January 1992 — A small number of Little Beavers gathered in Pascagoula, Mississippi for the christening of USS Cape St. George, CG 71.

June 1993 — Several hundred Little Beavers and guests were honored participants in the commissioning of Cape St. George at NOB Norfolk, Virginia.

24 November 1993Cape St. George honored the Little Beavers by taking approximately 280 veterans and guest to a Thanksgiving Day Dinner and re-enactment of the Battle of Cape St. George off the coast of Virginia.

January 1994 — A sizable number of Little Beavers joined the President of the United States and the crew of the Arleigh Burke at the United States Naval Academy to pay our last respects to our beloved admiral.

6 April 1996 — A dozen or so Little Beavers and families joined the US Naval Memorial in Washington to pay tribute to Admiral Burke at the annual Blessing of the Fleet Ceremony. Mrs. Burke was the guest of honor.

July 1994 — Many Little Beavers gathered at the Naval Academy to pay our last respects to Mrs. Burke, who passed away 4 July.

24 November 2003 — Eight Little Beavers, family members and friends gathered at USS Cape St. George at Norfolk to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Battle of Cape St. George.

Source: Little Beavers Reunion Coordinator Clarence “Red” Lail, USS Converse